SO CONGRESSWOMAN Loretta Sanchez, D-Garden Grove, was finally forced to move
her Tuesday night fund-raiser at the Playboy Mansion because Democratic
Party bigwigs were afraid the Hefner connection would sully their image.
Isn't this all a little silly? And just a wee bit hypocritical, too?
The Demos don't seem to blanche and cover their mortal souls with fig
leaves when they hold $50,000-a-plate fund-raising dinners with CEOs of
companies that bar unions from their hotels, pollute rivers, build bombs,
use sex to sell anything from toothpaste to tractors, or create movies that
glorify teenage lust and/or sickening doses of violence and mayhem. We don't
see either party quivering in their boots when lobbyists of every stripe
wine and dine them, schmoozing members of Congress into frequently voting
against the public good and for the corporate good.
Where are the horrified gasps and overly sober statements of concern when
our armed forces are dispatched to every corner of the globe to protect the interests of Big Oil (the Middle East) and
Big Banana (Central America)? Neither of the major political parties gets
terrifically animated when it's revealed that some 44 million people are
living without health insurance in this great nation of ours. But, lo and
behold, open the doors of the Playboy Mansion and suddenly there's a very
grave issue of global magnitude.
And what exactly was the problem? Hugh Hefner's pocketbook has opened
freely to help fill the coffers of Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore
smoking hedonist reportedly has contributed some $1,500 to Gore's campaign.
Not exactly a donation that will sew up the election for the Dems, but
enough to raise the eyebrows of the pundits on CNN's ``Crossfire'' and
preachers from Bob Jones University. Plenty of other groups have used the
mansion for their fund-raisers, including such politically correct
organizations as the National Women's Political Caucus, the Hollywood
Women's Political Committee and Rock the Vote. Clearly, there must be
something more alluring
about Hefner's pad than simply the potential sighting of big breasts and
So why all the alarm? Obviously, there's the Clinton factor -- Gore and
his running mate, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, are doing their darndest to scrub
the taint of Clinton's sexual fiascoes from the image of their party. And
Hefner's parties are not exactly the right ingredient to help in that
effort. But, come on, isn't Playboy magazine and its attendant industries an
accepted part of American culture by now? Doesn't every schoolboy in America
have a secret part of their heart dedicated to the titillating pages of
Hefner's rag? Hasn't Hugh presented some of the best fiction of this nation
in his pages and hasn't he consistently fought for the sacred privileges of
the First Amendment?
What's the big deal? Sex.
That's the big deal. This is the national bugaboo which dare not speak
its name. From Nathaniel Hawthorne's ``Scarlet Letter'' to the liaisons of
Marilyn and JFK to Monica and Bill frolicking in the
Oval Office, sexuality has been America's fiercest enemy. It's our own
carnal appetites that terrify us. And our appetites are fed continuously by
the advertising and entertainment businesses, businesses which will cross
any boundary to market and sell their products. The Republicans hinted at it
with their squeaky-clean convention and their refusal to even discuss the
sexual orientation of Mary Cheney, Dick Cheney's openly gay 31-year-old
daughter. Now with their treatment of Congresswoman Sanchez, the Dems have
made it official: sex has been barred from the national agenda.
But they'd better watch out: as Hugh Hefner knows so well (he should,
he's been making a good living at it for almost 50 years), when the mystery,
confusion and beauty of sexuality are denied their natural and rightful
place in the national psyche, they have a curious way of becoming the focus
of attention, whether we like it or not.
Rob Sullivan studies the national psyche from Los Angeles.
©2000 San Francisco Chronicle